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Article

Mark Tucker

[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]

(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...

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Horace Clarence Boyer

(b McCormick, SC, Sept 25, 1921; d Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2008). American gospel singer, pianist, and composer. She moved to Philadelphia at an early age and sang and played at a local Church of God in Christ. In 1942 she joined a female quartet, the Spiritual Echoes, and served as their pianist for two years, leaving the group in 1944 to organize the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two friends, Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. Their first recording, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (1950), sold 500,000 copies in less than six months. Her most famous composition is “My Sweet Home” (1960). The incidental harmony of their rural singing style and Allison’s sliding technique appealed to a large number of supporters who otherwise found the gospel music of the period controlled and calculated. The group traveled and recorded with the Dixie Hummingbirds during the 1950s. Allison toured, recorded, and performed gospel music for over seven decades....

Article

Roxanne R. Reed

(b Anguilla, MS, March 21, 1919; d Hazel Crest, IL, 15 June, 1995). American gospel director, singer, composer, and publisher. Anderson established a career forming and training gospel groups in Chicago. His formative years were spent as one of the original Roberta Martin Singers, one of the premiere gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s. He left briefly, between 1939 and 1941, to form the first of his many ensembles, the Knowles and Anderson Singers with R.L. Knowles. He rejoined Martin, but ultimately resigned because of the travel demands. In 1947 he formed Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravan, but after several members left in 1952, he formed a new set of singers that recorded and performed under the name the Robert Anderson Singers through the mid-1950s. Throughout his career, Anderson recorded on a multitude of labels including Miracle and United with Robert Anderson and the Caravans; and later with the Robert Anderson Singers, on Apollo. Anderson wrote, and often sang lead on, many of the songs his groups performed, including “Why Should I Worry” (...

Article

(b Memphis, TN, Feb 3, 1898; d Chicago, IL, Aug 27, 1971). American jazz pianist, singer, bandleader, and composer. She studied keyboard privately from an early age and had hopes of becoming a concert pianist. While she was enrolled at Fisk University, her mother and stepfather moved to Chicago, where in 1917 she took a job as a sheet music demonstrator, which led to her joining the Original Creole Jazz Band as its pianist. It was her first job playing jazz and she decided not to return to Fisk. She subsequently worked with several bands, including King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which she performed in San Francisco in 1921 and made her recording debut in 1923. By this time the band included louis Armstrong, whom she married in 1924. Armstrong’s place in jazz history was assured by her participation on Oliver’s Gennett recordings and Louis’ Hot Five sessions for Okeh. She played an important role in Louis’ move into a brighter spotlight before their separation in ...

Article

Jefferey Wanser

[Lucas, Lemuel Eugene]

(b Gainesville, TX, June 24, 1900; d Palm Springs, CA, Jan 24, 1972). American singer, composer, and pianist. He received his stage name from his stepfather. He began his career by joining the circus at the age of 15 and soon thereafter reached New Orleans where he played piano in parlor houses. After military service in World War I, he met Roy Bergere, with whom he subsequently toured in a vaudeville duo. Austin began writing songs and moved on to work for Mills Music in New York as a demo singer. After he made his first recording for Victor Records (1924), his crooning style, influenced by African American work songs and cowboy singers, came to the attention of the producer Nat Shilkret, who teamed him with Aileen Stanley for a duet, “When my Sugar Walks down the Street” (Vic., 1925). Within months Austin became a star in his own right with hit songs such as “Ain’t she Sweet” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” and continued this streak throughout the 1920s with “My Blue Heaven” and “Girl of My Dreams,” among others. Austin then started his own music company, recorded with Fats Waller, and performed extensively on radio and in concert. In the early 1930s he also appeared in several Hollywood films as a singing cowboy. His singing style soon became outdated, and he began other ventures, including starting nightclubs in New Orleans, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, as well as traveling shows. He revived his singing career in the 1950s, when he appeared on television and in nightclubs. Austin composed or copyrighted 85 songs. His last appearance was at a New Year’s Eve concert in Miami in ...

Article

Dale Cockrell

(b Cleveland, OH, July 21, 1878; d Santa Ana, CA, May 3, 1927). American composer and singer. After studying music at the Cleveland Conservatory he went to New York, where he became a pianist in vaudeville theaters and a founding member of ASCAP. From 1907 to 1927 he was a staff pianist and composer at M. Witmark and Sons. His first success came with the ballad “Will you love me in December as you do in May?,” written in 1905 to lyrics by Jimmy Walker. Many of his most popular songs thereafter were composed for the Irish tenors John McCormack and Chauncey Olcott, with whom he also collaborated. Ball composed some 400 songs, including such standards as “Mother Machree” (1910), “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” (1913), and “A Little Bit of Heaven” (1914). Much of the last decade of his life was spent performing in vaudeville. His film biography, ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...

Article

Luca Cerchiari

[Daniel Moses]

(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 13, 1909; d New Orleans March 13, 1994). American guitarist, banjoist, singer, composer, and writer, husband of the singer Blue Lu Barker. His great-uncle Louis Arthidore was a clarinet virtuoso who played with the Onward Brass Band and his grandfather Isidore Barbarin played alto horn; on the latter’s advice he studied clarinet (with Barney Bigard) and ukulele, banjo, and guitar (with Bernard Addison). He also learned drums with Louis and Paul Barbarin. Barker performed professionally in the 1920s in Mississippi and Florida, before moving in 1930 to New York, where he played guitar in the groups of James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, and Henry “Red” Allen and in the swing orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and Cab Calloway. In the 1940s he switched to six-string banjo and took part in the dixieland revival. During the same period he worked with West Indian musicians and recorded for Spotlite with Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker. Before returning to New Orleans in ...

Article

Randolph Love

(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920). American Trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its debut at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.

Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man and an in-house bandleader. From ...

Article

Leonidas Economou

(b Athens, Greece, Dec 11, 1922; d Athens, April 7, 2005). Greek singer and composer. He began his career as a laïko composer and bouzouki soloist and sang only occasionally. He made his first great hit as a singer in 1956, with a song by Manos Hadjidakis, but he became widely known in the early 1960s when Mikis Theodorakis chose him as the main interpreter of some of his most important works. His career peaked between 1960 and 1974. He became the most important male voice of the entechno laïko song, performing a great number of songs of all the composers of this genre. He also recorded new influential versions of classic rebetika and many laïko and elafrolaïko hits (often his own compositions). His timid acceptance of the Junta regime blemished his image and, due also to the deterioration of his voice, his career declined and he made only a few recordings after ...

Article

Jonas Westover

[Salvatore Phillip]

(b Detroit, MI, Feb 16, 1935; d South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jan 5, 1998). American singer, composer, producer, actor, and politician. Bono began his career as a composer; one of his first songs, “Things You Do To Me,” was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957–8. He eventually made contact with Phil Spector, with whom he worked closely for several years. One of his first successes came in 1963, when his song “Needles and Pins” (co-written with Jack Nitzsche) was recorded by Jackie DeShannon and reached number one on the charts in Canada. The height of his musical career came in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the duo Sonny and Cher. He wrote, produced, and performed on many of their hits, including “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On.” Success with Cher, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1975, led to many appearances on television, including ...

Article

Horace Clarence Boyer

(b Bessemer, AL, Jan 23, 1927; d Newark, NJ, Feb 15, 1978). American gospel singer and composer. At the age of 13 he joined the Protective Harmoneers, a children’s gospel group in Bessemer, and had his own radio show on a local station. He attended Snow Hill Institute in Snow Hill, Alabama, and as a student teacher acquired the title “professor,” which he maintained throughout his career. While traveling with Mahalia Jackson in 1941–2, he copied down the names of promoters from her address book and left her employ to organize his own group, the Bradford Singers. When they made no great impression on the gospel field, Bradford joined Willie Webb and his singers, with whom he recorded “Every day and every hour” (1950). On the strength of its success he organized the Bradford Specials, an all-male group who sang in robes with pastel stoles and choreographed most of their songs. In ...

Article

Chris Albertson

[Mule]

(b Montgomery, AL, Feb 14, 1893; d New York, NY, April 20, 1970). American jazz composer, pianist, and singer. He was raised in Atlanta, GA, where he had piano lessons as a child. After leaving home at an early age, he led a nomadic existence as a vaudeville performer and solo pianist before settling in Chicago in 1909 and moving to New York around 1912. He wrote, published, and energetically promoted his own music, but none of his efforts proved as rewarding as a 1920 Okeh Records release of Mamie Smith singing two of his songs, “That Thing Called Love” and “Crazy Blues.” The release resulted from Bradford’s persistent attempts to convince Okeh’s Fred Hagar that there was a market for African American singers. It is generally recognized as the first commercial recording of a blues sung by a black performer. Sales reached a million copies, generated a blues craze that boosted the careers of such singers as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ida Cox, and awakened the record industry to an untapped potential that ultimately changed the sound and direction of America’s popular music....

Article

(b Honolulu, HI, Nov 9, 1909; d Honolulu, HI, April 27, 1992). Hawaiian singer, musician, bandleader, composer, and impresario. Sol Bright was a master entertainer of the old school: an energetic showman, accomplished musician, comic hula dancer, composer, raconteur, and entertainment director during Hawaiian music’s era of greatest international appeal, the 1920s through the 1960s.

His professional experience began as a teenager playing drums with his sister Hannah’s dance band. In 1928 an offer to play rhythm guitar and sing with Sol Ho`opi`i took him to Kaleponi (California), where a large community of Hawaiian musicians had formed. He started his own group, The Hollywood Hawaiians, in 1932. Playing steel guitar and singing, he recorded prolifically for major labels. He also appeared on radio and in four films: South Sea Rose,Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case,Flirtation Walk, and White Woman. Bright composed a number of songs that have become standards, including the jazzy English language “Sophisticated Hula” and “Hawaiian Cowboy,” a show-stopping novelty song in Hawaiian. With rapid-fire verses, reflective of fast ...

Article

Chadwick Jenkins

[Hapgood, Hattie L.]

(b Los Angeles, CA, Oct 29, 1916; d Los Angeles, CA, Nov 21, 2002). American jazz pianist, singer, and composer. She was raised in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending the University of Chicago, she worked as a dance studio accompanist in the early 1940s for the choreographer Willie Covan, who trained such figures as Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple. She began to mold her style in the manner of Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. The recording mogul Jules Bihari gave her the name Hadda Brooks, and it was for his label Modern Music Records that she recorded her first hit, “Swingin’ the Boogie” (1945), after which she soon earned the billing Queen of the Boogie. Charlie Barnet suggested that Brooks learn to sing the song You won’t let me go, and it became her first vocal release in 1947. That same year Brooks was cast in the film ...

Article

David Font-Navarrete

(b Gaston, NC, Aug 28, 1936; d Baltimore, May 16, 2012). American bandleader, singer, guitarist, and composer. He was a musical icon of the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He was widely known as “The Godfather of Go-go” and renowned for his live performances, which emphasized continuous, percussion-driven grooves and audience participation, all staples of the Go-go genre he developed in the 1970s. Brown’s early years were marked by poverty and crime, and he first developed his guitar playing while incarcerated at the Lorton Penitentiary. With his band the Soul Searchers, Brown developed a distinctive sound that is grounded in funk and soul, but also heavily influenced by jazz and Latin genres. His hit songs include “Bustin’ Loose,” “We Need Some Money,” and “Go-Go Swing.” In 1992, Brown recorded The Other Side with vocalist Eva Cassidy, a critically-acclaimed album of jazz and blues material. He received a NARAS Governors Award and an NEA Lifetime Heritage Fellowship Award, and continued to record and perform regularly until his death in ...

Article

Sumanth Gopinath

(b Philadelphia, PA, March 2, 1943). American political activist and singer/songwriter. Despite severe poverty, Brown studied piano at an early age and began writing songs at 16. After a semester at Temple University, she left for Los Angeles, hoping to become a professional songwriter. She had an affair with a married white novelist, screenwriter, and songwriter, Jay Richard Kennedy, who encouraged her to embrace leftist politics and her black identity. She began performing with the support of Stanley Crouch, Horace Tapscott, and the Underground Musicians Association (UGMA), shortly before becoming closely involved with the Black Panther Party (BPP). Under Tapscott’s musical direction Brown recorded Seize the Time (1969, Vault Records), an extraordinary album that provided the name for Bobby Seale’s famous memoir of the BPP’s early years and became an underground classic. Its songs include musical manifestos, portraits of individuals she had known through her political activities, and a memorial for murdered BPP members Bunchy Carter and John Huggins (“Assassination”). Brown’s declamatory, theatrical singing style is highlighted in “The End of Silence,” which featured poignantly in William Klein’s film ...

Article

David Brackett

(b Barnwell, SC, May 3, 1928; d Atlanta, Dec 25, 2006). American soul and funk singer, composer, arranger and bandleader. Born into extreme poverty in the rural South, he began his career as a professional musician in the early 1950s with the gospel-based group, the Flames. By 1956 the group had recorded the rhythm and blues hit Please, Please, Please (Federal, 1956) and changed their name to James Brown and the Famous Flames. This early recording established what was to become a stylistic trademark: insistent repetition of a single phrase (in this case, the song's title) resulting in a kind of ecstatic trance. This approach and Brown's characteristic raspy vocal timbre and impassioned melismas display his debt to the black American gospel tradition. His stage shows, dancing and inspired call-and-response interactions with the audience also convey the fervour of a sanctified preacher.

The first decade of Brown's recording career saw him alternating energetic dance numbers such as ...

Article

David Royko

(b Bowling Green, KY, Apr 13, 1952). American mandolinist, fiddler, vocalist, composer, and bluegrass/newgrass bandleader. Commonly referred to as the “Father of Newgrass Music,” Bush was deeply influenced by Jethro Burns and Bill Monroe. He began playing mandolin at age 11 and fiddle at 13, winning three junior fiddle championships at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest & Festival in Weiser, Idaho (1967–9). In 1969, Bush recorded Poor Richard’s Almanac (American Heritage) with banjoist Alan Munde and guitarist Wayne Stewart. In 1970, he joined Bluegrass Alliance and, from that band’s personnel, co-founded New Grass Revival in 1971, blending bluegrass instrumentation and techniques with rock, jazz, reggae, pop, and blues, and recording ten albums. In the early 1970s, Bush began an extensive studio career, playing on significant progressive bluegrass and Newgrass albums. A prolific solo artist since the mid-1980s, Bush recorded series of albums on the Rounder and Sugar Hill labels, most notably ...

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Jonas Westover

(Angela)

(b Huntington, NY, March 27, 1970). American singer, composer, producer, and actress. She is one of the top-selling artists of all time, a star in R&B and pop who sold, according to some estimates, more than 200 million albums during the 1990s and 2000s. She learned to sing as a child from her mother, an opera singer and vocal coach. While in high school she sang backing vocals for other artists and developed her own compositional style. She moved to New York in the mid-1980s and became a backing singer for Brenda K. Starr. The record company executive Tommy Mottola sought out Carey after hearing her voice on a demo tape. He immediately offered her a recording contract, resulting in her first album, Mariah Carey (1990); the two eventually married. Carey wrote or co-wrote a significant portion of the music on her first album and insisted on maintaining a degree of control over its production. Both of these elements have become her standard practice, and she is one of the few major pop artists to compose much of her own material. ...